Estate Silver - Good Find or Goodwill?
Ever wonder if that old silver tray collecting dust on top of the refrigerator is worth something?
One of the primary factors in determining the value of anything “silver” is whether it is made from sterling silver or if it is simply silver plate. Sterling silver consists of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper alloy, while silver plate is comprised of a base metal such as copper, brass, or stainless steel that has been electroplated with sterling silver. Silver plate became popular in the late 1800s and made silverware more affordable for the masses.
Sterling items are typically stamped with either “925” or the words “sterling” to indicate their composition. Pieces produced in Great Britain often have a small lion hallmark, in addition to other marks that may indicate the city, date, or maker.
On the other hand, silver plate items may be stamped with “silver plate”, “EPNS” (Electro-plated Nickel Silver), or “German Silver”. Older pieces may exhibit wear spots from use, exposing the base metal beneath. They can be re-plated by a jeweler or even through “do-it-yourself” kits.
Items made from sterling are always worth at least their value in silver, which is currently around $14 an ounce. Simply look-up “Scrap Silver Calculator” online and enter in the weight of your pieces to get a rough estimate of what’s called the “spot” value. If you decided to sell your sterling items for their silver value, be aware that a fee is usually charged for the transaction and to cover the cost of refining the metal.
Both sterling and silver plate pieces can increase in value, depending upon the manufacturer or intricacy of the object. Silver items made by high-end designers such as Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Buccellati, and Georg Jensen can often command 200% to 400% above their value by weight. Some large and ornate silver plate centerpieces, desk accessories, and other decorative objects have potential to sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, too.
So next time that you’re getting ready to use Grandma’s silver service, take a moment to turn it over and see what it’s made of. Its value might just surprise you.